Good Question...


On...why didn't Peter eat on the roof?



updated Dec/02

On Sun, 17 Dec 1995 WWWWWWW wrote:

question:
In Act 10:9-16 Peter has an encounter with 'a voice'. This voice tells him to "Kill and eat". He says "NO!" .. not once but three times. By this adamant refusal by Peter I believe it is well known by him that he is NOT to 'kill and eat'. He actually had the meal being prepared therefore we DO know he was hungry? So why did he refuse?

The answer is in v.4 -- the 'creeping things' were forbidden under the ceremonial law of the OT...Peter was simply being a good Jew...

It wasn't the killing that was the issue, it was the 'eating'...

And how was god to know for sure that he would not?

God was using it for a 'training session' for Peter...He knew (as God) what the outcome would be...

Abraham was told .. once .. to kill his son Issac... and he was going to do it.

Abe is a stranger story...he had been promised that nations would come through Isaac...according to the Book of Hebrews he KNEW that God would HAVE TO RAISE ISSAC from the dead to fulfill that promise...in short, that that 'killing' would NOT BE LIKE 'real' killing...but that is a different story...

But Peter .. refuses to kill an animal? Doesn't make much sense to me. How about you? Unless they were .. vegetarian?

I think Peter's explanation in v.14 and in the later account in Jerusalem (chap 11) makes sense, given the Jewish context...He didn't want to (being a good Jew), but God used it to teach him that all foods were now 'clean', and that this 'cleansing' applied to the Gentiles as well (Peter's explanation).

The interaction within the vision narrative makes it clear that the verse "what God has cleansed, do not call 'unclean'" refers to the food, since it is the immediate prior reference of Peter:
 

 "It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. 13 Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."

"Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."

The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

Peter calls the food 'unclean', and the voice in vision told him NOT to call that food 'unclean' again (for three repetitions). The vision itself clearly has God TRYING to convince Peter that the foods (which he sees in the vision) have been cleansed by God. This is the explicit verbal content of the interchange. But there are wider implications of this for Peter's thinking...

Compare what a couple of commentators said about the passage:

"The abolition of barriers was pressed home in the vision with special reference to Jewish food restrictions, but Peter soon learned that its range was much wider. Perhaps, as he thought about the vision, he remembered hearing similar words on an earlier occasion, though he had not then grasped their import. No doubt he was present when his Master, in a debate with Pharisees and scribes, insisted that it is not what goes into someone's stomach that conveys defilement, but what comes out of one's heart (Mark 7:14-19a). This was in effect an abrogation of ceremonial food laws and much else of the same character, but it was not until later, as a result of his experience on the roof at Joppa, that Peter appreciated this. It may well be to Peter that we owe the comment appended by the evangelist to Jesus' pronouncement on this subject: "Thus he declared all foods clean" (Mark 7:19b)The divine cleansing of food in the vision is a parable of the divine cleansing of human beings in the incident to which the vision leads up. It did not take Peter long to understand this: "God has taught me," he says later in the present narrative, "to call no human being profane or unclean" (v. 30). Within the framework of the vision it is food that God has cleansed by dominical pronouncement, but in the wider narrative it is men and women, even Gentiles, whose hearts he has cleansed by faith (cf. 15:9). Yet the cleansing of food is not wholly parabolic: there is a connection between the abrogation of the levitical food restrictions and the removal of the barrier between believing Jews and Gentiles, for it was in large measure the Gentiles' eating of food which was "unclean" (not kosher) by Jewish law that made association with them a source of "defilement" for Jews (cf. v.. 28)." [Bruce, Acts, NICNT, revised]

"The voice told Peter, "Do not call anything impure [koirlos; lit., `common,' a synecdoche for the dual expression koinos kai akathartos, `impure or unclean,' of v. 14] that God has made clean." The particular application had to do with nullifying Jewish dietary laws for Christians in accord with Jesus' remarks on the subject in Mark 7:17-23. But Peter was soon to learn that the range of the vision's message extended much more widely, touching directly on Jewish-Gentile relations as he had known them and on those relations in ways he could never have anticipated." [EBCNT]

In other words, the extension of the vision to the Gentiles only 'works' if the theological content of the vision is correct. If God had not cleansed those foods, then the extension to the Gentiles would not logically follow...the passage uses a very focused (and emotionally vivid!) theological issue to 'open Peter up' to the broader implications of the New Covenant of life. The fact that God was trying to get Peter to accept the Gentiles (Peter's conclusion), does not at all mean that the content of the food-vision was theologically incorrect (about the kosherizing of all foods, a la Mark 7.14ff)). God didn't use a 'theological lie' to teach Peter a theological truth!
 


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